FILM by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Miss Julie
May 7-10
RPL Film Theatre
2 out of 5

Immediacy is live theatre’s big advantage over film. Mannered performances and elaborate dialogue work because audiences are more susceptible to actors when everyone’s in the same room.

There lies the problem with Miss Julie, a faithful adaptation of the August Strindberg play. Despite the best efforts of a top-notch cast tearing into the material, it’s hard to engage with a story in which each character seems to be having a two-hour long panic attack.

Set during a midsummer night in Ireland, late XIX century, Miss Julie revolves around the power struggle between the title character (Jessica Chastain) and her father’s valet, John (Colin Farrell). Initially, an infatuated Miss Julie openly pursues John, right in front of his fiancée (Samantha Morton), and she’s not above using her position to get him.

A major battle of wills ensues, peppered by matters of class, religion and male privilege. Getting the upper hand matters more than building a relationship. But because of the neurotic way the argument unfolds, it’s difficult to figure out what the movie is trying to say. Chastain and Farrell are terrific, but their unrestrained performances seem better suited for the stage.

Miss Julie is directed by Bergman favourite, Liv Ullmann (she also wrote the screenplay). The Persona star gets remarkable work from her cast, but it’s not enough. A noble effort but a failed one.